Boethius, Hector

, a celebrated Scotch historian, was born at Dundee, in the shire of Angus, about 1470. After having studied at Dundee and Aberdeen, he was sent to the university of Paris, where he applied to philosophy, and became a professor of it there. There also he contracted an acquaintance with several eminent persons, particularly with Erasmus, who kept a correspondence with him afterwards. Elphinston, bishop of Aberdeen, having founded the king’s college in that city about 1500, sent for Boeis from Paris, and appointed him principal. He took for his colleague Mr. William Hay, and by their joint labour the kingdom was furnished with several eminent scholars. Upon the death of his patron, he undertook to write his life, and those of his predecessors in that see. The work is in Latin, and entitled “Vitae Episcoporum Murthlacensium et Aberdonensium,Paris, 1522, 4tol He begins at Beanus, the first bishop, and ends at Gawin Dunbar, who was bishop when the book xyas published. A third part of the work is spent in the life of Elphinston, for whose sake it was undertaken. He next undertook to write in the same language the history of Scotland the first edition of which was printed at Paris by Badius Ascenslus in 152G, which consisted of seventeen books, and ended with the death of James I. but the next in 1574 was much enlarged, having the addition of the 18th book and part of the 19th the work was afterwards brought down to the reign of James III. by Ferrerius, a | Piedmontese. It was translated by Bellenclen. (See Bellenden, John). Mackenzie observes, that of all Scots historians, next to Buchanan, Boethins has been the most censured and commended by the learned men who have mentioned him. Nicolson tells us, that in the first six books there are a great many particulars not to be found in Fordun or any other writer now extant and that, “unless the authors which he pretends to have seen be hereafter discovered, he will continue to be shrewdly suspected for the contriver of almost as many tales as Jeoffrey of Momnouth.” His 18th book, however, is highly commended by Ferrerius, who says, “that he has treated of things there in so comprehensive a manner, that he believes no one could have done it more fully or significantly on the same subject.” His stylo, says another writer, has all the purity of Caesar’s, and is so nervous both in the reflections and diction, that he seems to have absolutely entered into the spirit of Livy, and made it his own. Erasmus, who was intimately acquainted with him, says, in one of his epistles, “that he was a man of an extraordinary happy genius, and of great eloquence.” “He was certainly,” says another writer, “a great master of polite learning, well skilled in divinity, philosophy, and history; but somewhat credulous, and much addicted to the be-> lief of legendary stories. With regard to his other accomplishments, he was discreet, well-bred, attentive, generous, affable, and courteous.“Dr. Johnson in his Tour in Scotland observes that Hector Boethius may be” justly reverenced as one of the revivers of elegant learning. The style of Boethins, though, perhaps, not always rigorously pure, is formed with great diligence upon ancient models, and wholly uninfected with monastic barbarity. His history is written with elegance and vigour, but his fabulousness and credulity are justly blamed. His fabulousness, if he was the author of the fictions, is a fault for which no apology can be made; but his credulity may be excused in an age when all men were credulous. Learning was then rising on the world; but ages, so long accustomed to darkness, were too much dazzled with its light to see any thing distinctly. The first race of scholars, in the fifteenth century, and some time after, were, for the most part, learning to speak, rather than to think, and were therefore more studious of elegance than of truth. The contemporaries of Boethius thought it sufficient to know what | the ancients had delivered. The examination of tenets and of facts was reserved for another generation.” 1


Mackenzie’s Lives, vol. II. p. 376.—Biog. Brit.—Nicolson’s Hist. Library. —Johnson’s Works.